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William “Bill” Kronschnabel
William “Bill” Kronschnabel will receive the Ramsey County Bar Association’s 2021 Pro Bono Award at its Foundation Bench & Bar Benefit event Saturday. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Decades of legal aid work bring bar award

Name: William “Bill” Kronschnabel

Title: Partner, Kueppers, Kronschnabel & Skrypek

Education: B.A., classics, St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, Winona; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

William “Bill” Kronschnabel wasn’t expecting an award for what he considers to be “a nice thing and the right thing to do.”

But he will get one on Saturday, Nov. 6, when he receives the Ramsey County Bar Association’s 2021 Pro Bono Award at its Foundation Bench & Bar Benefit event.

The award recognizes Kronschnabel’s 39 years of volunteer work with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, dating to 1982. Kronschnabel was “totally surprised” at the recognition and “very honored and very humbled.”

Kronschnabel co-founded the Kueppers, Kronschnabel & Skrypek law firm in 1976 in St. Paul. He focuses on general business, international business transactions and estate planning, probate, and trust and real estate.

Starting out, Kronschnabel was a prosecutor for a year before working as a part-time public defender while building up his practice.

“I found out in those early years of doing public defender and legal aid work that there’s a certain segment of people in our society that are like salmon,” Kronschnabel said. “They’re just swimming upstream their whole life. Whether it’s their fault, not their fault, whatever, that doesn’t matter. You’re not casting any judgments. They just need help.”

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Ask me about my family or my interests outside of being a lawyer. I’ve got three daughters. One is the CEO of a company in Hong Kong and the other two are lieutenant colonels in the U.S. Marine Corps. I’m fortunate.

I’ve had a sailboat on Lake Superior since 1976. Sailed up there a lot with my kids. I’ve taken it out to the ocean twice, through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway and back.

For 39 years, I was an on-ice college and high school hockey referee. I work for the National Hockey League at the Wild games as an off-ice official. I’ll be the timekeeper for a game or a penalty or will be in a press box on a computer deciding what’s a shot on goal or missed shot or a hit or a giveaway or a takeaway.

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: I was going to be a high school teacher and hockey coach. But I wasn’t sure that that’s what I wanted to do, so I decided to take the test for law school to see if I could get in. I scored high enough to get in. I thought, I’ll try this and if it doesn’t work, I can always go back to teaching. I actually took the test up at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. We (St. Mary’s hockey team) were playing a weekend series at Superior on Friday-Saturday. I went over to Duluth on Saturday morning and took the test. It was an eight-hour test and then I had to go play Saturday night again.

Q: What are you reading?

A: Primarily sailboat cruising and scuba diving magazines.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: Being able to help people in situations where they need assistance.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Dealing with the incivility that’s crept into our profession.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: If it was during the hockey season, a Wild game at Xcel Center.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: Probably the judge that first hired me as a law clerk, back when judges hired law students instead of lawyers as their clerks. That was Judge Bert Poritsky in Ramsey County. He hired me, like, two days before I started law school, which is unheard of these days. I had the opportunity to see how lawyers function, how the court system functions, all that all through law school. The other one was my now-deceased longtime partner Michael Kampmeyer, who taught me how to act like a lawyer and how to treat clients.

Q: Favorite book, movie or TV show about lawyers?

A: I don’t watch TV shows about lawyers or movies about lawyers. I’m kind of from the “Perry Mason” era.

 

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